I don’t claim to be the master of effective blogging. I have read a bit about it and have experimented with my own blog. I’ve thought about how various wisdoms apply to my goals. I’ve received some personal advice. Here is my effort to reproject for “Leopoldian” aims a recent nugget I received. The below applies more so to venues for continual blogging rather than that special invitation to write the “Great American Blogpost.”
#1. Strike while the iron is hot. You have an idea. Recording that idea at that moment is paramount (via mobile device, computer, cocktail napkin or Moleskin). “Mental notes” vanish and you cannot remember why you cared so much about your idea. Drafting an outline or a straw person argument helps. Better yet, record the first “hook” or question that you’ll focus on.
#2. Let it sit, take it in stages. Some people have the gift of writing high quality stuff at first blush—ideas pour out of a can of Coors with one of those special ‘shotgun’ technologies (yes, I miss walking the streets of Boulder, Colorado). Then there’s the rest of us. Jot a draft. Return to it in the afternoon or the next day. This provides fresh eyes, fresh perspective, and time to let your argument meddle.
#3. Figures are more likely to go viral. Posts with great graphics fare better on the Internet than text only. Finding time to locate the perfect photo that illustrates your idea is more valuable than we think. If you can produce a nifty chart, map, or infographic—one that is really golden—your post will get re-tweeted all through the Internet-o-sphere.
#4. Keep it simple. Everything is connected. Attributes about the environment and cities more so. You begin by talking about fire hydrant color palettes, and end up discussing the national debt, different asphalt mixes, and climate change. It’s often better to make one or two simple points per post. That’s it. There’ll be plenty of time to elaborate later in your next post.
#5. Lists have currency. Like this one. They lure people to keep reading. This can obviously be abused. There are ways of making lists without being so apparent. Headings, as well, help the reader organize your content. I use both here.
#6. Write to your reader. Yes, everyone says “know your audience!” What if you don’t really know? Targeting a specific person—someone who is representative of the audience you want to reach—helps pinpoint the argument, the evidence, and the tenor. My colleague just told me that she is specifically writing her next book to Robert Goldman—her father who is a really sharp guy, an avid reader, but knows little of her field. That is a book. Yours is a blog post, so the person can vary.
#7. Cut it short. Like it or not, I’ve learned people don’t read much past about 1000 words; I have convinced myself that ~750 words is a good threshold (this post is 572). If it’s getting long, separate it into a three part series; tell the reader it is part two of three. Unless you are really convinced you have the right venue, writing that “Great American Blogpost” might fall on deaf ears.